Just like the myriad of cultures found on Rice University’s campus, the West U and Rice Village area are a true reflection of the university’s diverse community. From quick bites, to cocktails, decadent dinners and desserts, you don’t have to travel far and wide for delicious international eats in this Houston neighborhood. So whether you’re a parent treating you star student to a meal, a visitor to the university or just looking for a cool neighborhood in H-Town, West U and Rice Village should be at the top of your list for neighborhood restaurants with tons of charm.
Breakfast/Brunch: Sweet Paris
First up, start your day at the sidewalk cafe Sweet Paris. Rice Village and West University boast some of the most delicious French food in the city and this spot is no exception. Serving breakfast throughout the week and brunch on the weekend, you can snag an express breakfast of pain au chocolat with a hot coffee or take your time to enjoy one of their sweet or savory crepes. Vraiment Français! There are also plenty of other breakfast dishes, French pastries and à la carte items to mix and match.
Honorable Mention: Punk’s Simple Southern Food
Looking for a truly Southern brunch? Try the Charleston Stack at Punk’s Simple Southern Food. Who doesn’t love starting the day (or early afternoon) with a homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with cream gravy, crispy chicken, home fries and a sunny side up egg?
Lunch: El Meson
We continue our culinary tour with another global-inspired favorite, El Meson. In the true heart of Rice Village, El Meson still feels like a hidden gem despite being in one of the area’s busiest shopping centers. Seamlessly blending Latin and Cuban cuisines, El Meson offers a variety of grilled and roasted meats, seafood, tapas, a list of paellas and rice dishes that are expertly crafted. The wine list is full of Spanish choices and pairs well with the entire menu, just ask your waiter for suggestions. We encourage ordering paella to split and complement it with a few tapas items like pinchos de lomo or red snapper ceviche.
Honorable Mention: Little Matt’s
For families looking to entertain their kids, look no further than Little Matt’s! As a restaurant that caters specifically to children, it has iPads and an arcade set up for kids to let loose and parents to relax. The food is classic American and they even offer free drinks (limit of two) for adults.
Happy Hour: Simone on Sunset
If you haven’t had a drink at neighborhood favorite, Simone on Sunset, you’re missing out on perfect West U find. Hidden below twisting vines is a courtyard and casual space that makes you feel like you’re in Europe. Describing itself as a gathering place for neighbors, you’ll want to move into the neighborhood ASAP. Happy hour is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. Enjoy $21 house bottles, $6 glasses of wine, $5 wells and $1 off of select beer. Other deals include $10 gourmet burgers on Monday, $5 sangria on Tuesday, $10 pizza night on Wednesday, and $20 ribeye or $22 filets on Thursday. Simone on Sunset has plenty to eat and drink for a relaxed affair.
Honorable Mention: Upstairs
Perched in the oak trees lining Rice Boulevard, Upstairs is a casual, contemporary neighborhood gathering spot that features an exclusive lite bites menu including wood-fired pizza, handcrafted cocktails and an expansive second-floor terrace. Happy hour is Monday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Dinner: Antica Osteria
After you’ve dined on French food and Latin cuisine, you’ll need to round it out with a little trip to Italy or at least Anitca Osteria. Located in a quaint building characteristic of the West University area, Antica Osteria serves up Italian favorites like pollo alla parmigiana and spaghetti Bolognese, or enjoy locally influenced items like the Gulf snapper or red fish. In true Italian fashion, your waiter will bring a chalkboard with the evenings offerings to your table and expertly guide you through the menu. The ambiance in the restaurant is warm and intimate with lots of seating and reservations are available.
Honorable Mention: Tiny’s No. 5
It’s almost impossible to come to Houston and not make a trip to either Tiny Boxwoods or Tiny’s No. 5, which is the restaurant’s West U location. Houstonians and visitors love Tiny’s No. 5 for its beautiful ambiance, romantic vibes and delicious menu. From an amazing meat and cheese board to wood-fired pizza, the daily fish in a champagne beurre blanc and scrumptious sides, every choice is a winner.
Dessert: The Chocolate Bar
Ice cream, hand-dipped chocolate, cakes, cupcakes, sweets and more can all be found at The Chocolate Bar. Not into chocolate? No problem, there is a dessert for everyone when you head to this destination of decadence.
Night Cap: Under The Volcano
Named after the classic novel by Malcolm Lowry, Under The Volcano’s vibe is inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos. The drink menu is plentiful with lots of beer on tap, cocktails, wine, champagne and cider. However, their signature drinks are the frozen screwdriver and frozen margarita with 100% agave Sauza Blue tequila. Plus, there are some bites if you’re looking for a late-night snack.